Well-paid foreign workers flock to Australia

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A record number of overseas workers entered Australian on temporary work visas last year, overwhelmingly filling high paid, professional jobs in the ICT and health sectors.

A record number of overseas workers entered Australian on temporary work visas last year, overwhelmingly filling high paid, professional jobs in the ICT and health sectors.

The data on s457 temporary work visas, released by Immigration Minister Chris Evans yesterday, shatters the myth of the low paid foreign worker brought to undercut the wages of local staff.

More than 58,000 s457 visas were granted to temporary workers in 2007-08, a 24% increase on 2006-07 levels and the single biggest yearly intake ever conducted under the scheme.

The average base salary paid to workers who arrived on the visas last year was $73,100, up 2% on the previous year and well above the average Australian weekly wage of around $55,000.

Employers are required to pay s457 workers more than a legislated minimum of around $43,000 – set to increase to 3.8% in August – but the data suggests very few workers rely on the minimum.

The highest paid foreign workers are in the mining sector, with an average wage of $125,000, while those in hospitality are the lowest paid on $49,000 per year.

Computing professionals, registered nurses, and business and information professionals were the top three occupations for temporary overseas workers. Despite the intense demand for workers in the resources sector, staff such as welders, civil engineers and motor mechanics ranked further down the list.

Just over 8% of s457 visa holders hired in 2007-08 were employed in occupations classified as professional and highly skilled.

Britain was the single biggest source of temporary overseas staff for Australian employers, making up 22% of the total, followed by India on 14%, the Philippines on 9%, South Africa 6%, China 6% and the USA on 6%.

Employers of s457 workers are likely to face significant new reporting obligations and big penalties for breaching immigration rules and legislation to be introduced by Evans in September.

“Although incidents of migrant worker exploitation are the exception rather than the rule, the Government is moving to improve the protections in place to prevent exploitation of temporary skilled workers from overseas,” Evans says.

In other IR news, a new collective agreement between the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and some builders in Victoria has raised the ire of the Master Builders Association.

The MBA says the new rollover agreement, which offers a 6% pay rise next year, lifts wages without delivering productivity gains or improved flexibility.

The agreement has at its core a rigid working day calendar that “underlines the control exercised by the union over the building industry”, MBA Victoria executive director Brian Welch says.

Read more on s457 visas

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